money talks, B.S. walks, and other fiscal, educational and theological considerations – Florida Keys and beyondSaturday, November 3rd, 2012
From Paul in Birmingham:
think God intervened to keep the blue states from voting? Hmmm!
As I wrote, Hurricane Sandy was USA’s karma for the way it reacted to 911. Sandy will affect voting in the blue states for all voters in affected areas who did not vote before Sandy arrived. How the pre-Sandy voting and the post-Sandy voting demographics play out, I imagine we will be reading all about in the funny papers.
Larry Murray dropped several bombs yesterday, starting with this reply to part of yesterday’s talking to a donkey and other scholarly pursuits in the Florida Keys and beyond post:
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2012 12:47:09 -0700
Subject: Re: talking to a donkey and other scholarly pursuits
Today, you repeat the fact that I warned the School Board that the District did not have the money to fund the teachers’ contract. Permit me to add to that. At the time, I requested that the School Board withhold final approval of the contract until the Audit and Finance Committee had an opportunity to review it and, among other things, confirm that the money was there to fulfill the contract. That request drew a personal phone call from Board Chairman John Dick asking that I back off. John said that it was imperative that the Board act immediately to approve the contract. His reasoning, which I think you will find interesting, was that teacher morale was in the tank and that approval by the Board would rescue the morass in morale. You may recall that with Board approval in hand, teachers were cut checks for back pay to the previous August, the beginning of the school year, a post-Christmas bonus of sorts. While I did not back off, I could not compel the Board to delay ratification which we all know was done. I find it ironic today that teacher morale is once again in the tank, in the dumpsters behind the schools as Ed Davidson would put it. Why is that? The simple answer is that the contract that was supposed to rescue morale ultimately led to its veritable demise!
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
For me, the simple answer is John Dick and the rest of the School Board had their heads where the sun doesn’t shine.
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2012 13:02:17 -0700
Subject: How To Get Seven Periods Into A High School Day
I had a very interesting meeting yesterday at MHS with Terry Axford and Melanie Stefanowicz on the subject of vocational education. I will have more to say on that later. Ms. Stefanowicz is the recently appointed head of Adult and Vocational Education and I have come away impressed with her. If permitted, I think that Ms. Stefanowicz will do an excellent job. She is very bright and highly professional, refreshing traits that I don’t always find in District employees. During our meeting, I asked Terry Axford, the District’s Chief Academic Officer, how was it that Coral Shores High School had a 7 period day whereas the other two high schools only had 6 periods. Her answer was simple and direct. The new principal at CSHS and longtime assistant principal, David Murphy, convinced his staff to “volunteer” to teach an additional period each day. That is done in lieu of their planning period. Apparently, that “scheme” did not work at either MHS or KWHS. I did not go into detail with Terry as to how hard Hammond Gracy and Amber Bosco worked to convince their staff to fall in with their peers at CSHS. I do not know either what role, if any, the teachers’ union played at any of the three high schools with regard to master scheduling. Perhaps Holly Hummell-Gorman will read this and provide an answer. Whether or not the faculty at CSHS is being “paid” to volunteer is not entirely clear. According to Gwen Filosa in today’s Citizen, Superintendent Porter has negotiated with the teachers’ union an agreement for a 5% reduction in all supplements “except for those teachers who give up their planning period to teach a sixth class daily,…” If that is accurate, we can assume that the faculty at CSHS are receiving supplements. As things are currently structured, each principal determines the distribution of supplements and it is possible to structure them as presumably Murphy has done at CSHS. I am weasel-wording a little bit as to whether or not the teachers at CSHS are being paid a supplement. I have an outstanding Public Records Request for the list of supplements by name, amount and purpose. That list was to have been provided to me by October 31, but I have yet to see it. Over the weekend, I will be emailing Superintendent Porter to demand receipt of all outstanding Public Records Requests. That is a problem that I believe you can appreciate. I will inform Superintendent Porter that if the PRR’s are not forthcoming, I will have to take further action to compel the District to produce that which is required by law. As an attorney, I expect that Superintendent Porter will appreciate that. Larry
LOL. My personal experience with the school district is that it answers some public records requests, and it doesn’t answer others. Besides the public records about John Dick’s “heads will roll”, I still have not received the outcome of the heinous allegations made against Sunny Booker – that she used the Ed Options online program to fabricate passing grades for ACE School students who did not have passing grades. Those charges were made at a School Board meeting by then Superintendent Jesus Jara just after he confessed to the Board that 500 Ed Options online courses were used that year by Key West High School students to make up courses they had flunked in real time at KWHS. From that Board meeting on, the entire District focus was on Sunny Booker. From that moment on, I felt Sunny was scape-goated to divert the public’s attention away from KWHS, its principal Amber Bosco, the District’s education director Theresa Axford, Superintendent Jara and the School Board. I still feel that way. District 3 School Board candidate John Welsh was principal of Key West High School until he retired. Key Largo (Coral Shores High) apparently feels vocational training is more important than Marathon and Key West feel. School Board member Ron Martin was Coral Shores’ principal until he retired and ran for the School Board.
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2012 13:13:46 -0700
Subject: Republican Party Machinations
I have heard on US1 Radio an ad for John Welsh paid for by the Monroe County Republican Party. Apparently, the Goodmans and their henchmen are doing their level best to “buy” a seat on the School Board the same way they bought a seat on the Mosquito Control Commission. Which office do you think they will bid for next? Remember what Dad always said: “Money talks; bullshit walks.”
I’m not surprised. The only good I heard about the Goodmans came from Republicans. I heard plenty of bad about them. I wish John Welsh had publicly distanced himself from the Republican Party, as in, told them he wanted the them to say out of his race. Instead, John took their campaign contributions. He probably has no control over their radio ads. One can only wonder why the Republican Party has injected itself into what traditionally is the only non-partisan county-wide race? Phil Goodman got himself appointed by the great humanitarian far-right Christian Republican Governor Rick Scott to the Mosquito Control Board, to replace deceased Board member Dick Rudell. Governor Scott reduced the early voting days in Florida, which move favors the Republican Party, whose members generally are more easily able to take a day off from work to vote. Wouldn’t surprise me if, perhaps unwittingly, John Welsh is a pawn for the far-right Christian Republicans.
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2012 17:47:25 -0700
Subject: Business As Usual To:
Listened to your interview this morning with Ezra on US1 Radio. Your comments regarding Ken Gentile were most interesting and enlightening. I thought noteworthy your general observation that Gentile’s misrepresentation on his employment application was simply a bump in the road that had to be addressed and was. More importantly, my attention was caught by your observation that you were “very satisfied” with Gentile and that you hoped that he would “stay around”. I assume that that is your imprimatur for his continuing appointment as Finance Director and that he will be here for years to come. It appears that Gentile has been successful in imitating Roman Gastesi. That is, Gentile has convinced the School Board as Gastesi convinced the County Commission that he is the “indispensable man”, that all would be lost without him. When one is deemed “indispensable”, it is amazing what will people will overlook. I am also told by others that Michael Kinneer may also be included in this new category of “indispensable”. Since Kinneer’s contract expires on December 15, I expect we will learn soon as to whether he is “indispensable” or “expendable”. Since nothing has been done to replace Kinneer and/or abolish his position, I can only assume that Superintendent Porter and the Board will find him “indispensable”. Then, come April 15, it will be Gentile’s turn, but I think that you have already expressed your opinion on that subject. During your interview, you also addressed the Fund Balance. I believe that you said that it is “precariously low”. Correct me if I am wrong. The last I knew, the Fund Balance was substantial, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% or around $4 million. Can you tell me the current status of the Fund Balance? I have heard it said recently that it may be as low as $1 million, but I do not know. Larry
Would be rather hypocritical for School Board Chairman John Dick to speak poorly of Ken Gentile’s “bump in the road,” when John and the entire School Board were told about the “bump in the road” by the firm they paid to vet Gentile’s resume, and they hired Gentile anyway. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it looks to me that Gentile has dragged gremlins out of the School District’s financial basement, which the District had long pretended did not exist. Perhaps that has something to do with the Reserve Fund Balance being lower than “expected”? Michael Kinneer told the School District and the Teacher Union’s negotiating teams that the money was not there to fund the Collective Bargaining Agreement they were hashing out. Kinneer was ignored. Perhaps, therefore, he is dispensable, just like Larry Murray was dispensable when he later told John Dick and the rest of the School Board pretty much the same thing Michael Kinneer had told the District and Union negotiating teams. Some months back, John Dick said on US 1 Radio that “heads will roll”, and that led to my asking him and the school district in several public records requests, as yet unaswered, what heads rolled? I wonder, therefore, if John will answer Larry’s question about the current status of the Reserve Fund Balance? I think if the balance falls below 3 percent, the District is required to notify the Florida Board of Education. And if the balance falls below 2 percent, I think the Board of Education can intervene, appoint its own School Board and Superintendent of Schools, and run the School District itself.
In The Key West Citizen today:
City defends fast-track building of KOTS
Day-long court hearing sees witnesses on both sides of lawsuit
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
Key West’s overnight homeless shelter was designed as a temporary solution to the “emergency situation” that was unfolding in the city about eight years ago, when men and women were forced out of illegal camping areas in the environmentally protected wetlands along South Roosevelt Boulevard. They then moved into public parks and beaches, a circuit court judge heard Friday. “The emergency is still on and it’s still there,” said John Jones, who was the Key West assistant city manager when the shelter went up on county property near the jail on Stock Island. “The City Commission long ago was trying to find a permanent place. I may be 90 years old, but maybe they’ll do it someday.” Jones, who is in his 80s, was the city’s go-to man when it came to solving Key West’s homeless crisis in 2004. On Friday, Jones became the star witness in the first hearing to come from the August 2011 lawsuit filed by Sunset Marina condo owners against the city, demanding that the shelter cease to exist in its home off College Road. Led by attorney Barton Smith, the marina owners want the court to issue a temporary order closing down the shelter before the case proceeds to a final trial on all issues. Chief Circuit Court Judge David Audlin heard more than five hours of testimony Friday at the 16th Judicial courthouse in Key West, with Jones on the stand the longest of the four witnesses. Smith tried to elicit from the witnesses that the shelter, originally called the Safe Zone and later dubbed Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS), was built without proper permits, routed around the city’s planning commission and pushed through without advertised public hearings. “No entity actually signed off on this because it was not run through there,” said Jones. “If we had waited for all the approvals, we would still be waiting to put the tents up.” City Attorney Shawn Smith, representing the city of Key West, presented as exhibits a 2004 building permit stamped with a city of Key West seal. Jones testified that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the county were all involved in the building of the shelter. Audlin asked Jones if the city has a process for following up on “temporary” structures such as KOTS. “They have a process but obviously it doesn’t work,” Jones said. Both the city and the marina agreed in court that Key West has a plan for a permanent shelter, which the mayor wants to build at the former Easter Seals property on College Road and run 24 hours a day. Jones repeatedly testified the homeless crisis was an “emergency.” Friday’s hearing drew other witnesses to the stand, but both sides couldn’t finish by 4 p.m. The court said it will schedule a second day to wrap up the testimony, but the date wasn’t determined Friday. Audlin hasn’t indicated when he will rule on the marina’s motion. The Rev. Steve Braddock testified first on Friday. Braddock is the executive director of the nonprofit Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless, which managed the shelter from 2004 until the lawsuit hit last year and his board of directors unanimously voted to cut ties. He was followed by Wendy Coles, executive director of the nonprofit that took over the city’s contract to run the shelter after FKOC pulled out. A condo owner who manages the property took the stand at the day’s end. But it was Jones who spent the longest time under questioning by Sunset Marina’s attorney Barton Smith and then cross-examination by City Attorney Shawn Smith and Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall. Mayor Craig Cates appeared in court before 2 p.m. but wasn’t called as a witness. He sat behind Smith. The lawsuit claims the city ignored its own rules and regulations in hastily putting up the shelter, which at first was a bare-bones collection of four tents and two trailers, with water, sewer and electrical hookups. KOTS opened without bunks or sheets. Men slept in their own sleeping bags on the ground, whether it was dry or damp. Back then, the homeless were highly visible in some of Key West’s hottest spots: The Bridle Path outside the airport, Higgs Beach and across the street next to a children’s playground. Jones was directed to build a shelter, he told the court, to house men and women who had no place else to go after a city ordinance forced them out of mangroves and other wetlands into the public’s eye. The shelter was built to flood, said Jones. “We installed tents knowing that later down the road when things settled down we would rebuild.” When the storm surge from Hurricane Wilma in 2005 ruined the tents, Jones and his crew re-covered the bunkhouses with a fiberglass shell, which remains today. Each tent cost $8,000 to cover with the material. “We didn’t need permits to cover the tents,” Jones testified. Smith asked why Jones didn’t take the shelter plans through the city’s planning commission. “There was nothing to develop,” Jones said. “My job was to lay it out and make sure it got constructed. There were no plans, just a rough sketch.” After 11 years as assistant city manager, Jones retired in 2008. At one point Friday, Jones referenced the Hurricane Sandy devastation in the Northeast as an example of emergency building. “Just like they’ll have to do in New York and New Jersey,” said Jones. “Get the government out of the way and fix it.”
I was in steady dialogue with John Jones during that time. He told me he was following orders, with which he did not necessarily agree. He said City Manager Julio Avael was in the same predicament. I don’t know if KOTS was built illegally, or not. I know it was built because the City of Key West was convinced Sam Kaufman, Attorney at Law, and/or I would sue the City in Federal Court, if the City kept using its police to prevent homeless people from sleeping at night. The only defense the City had to such a lawsuit would be it had a homeless shelter where homeless people could sleep, if they wanted to use the shelter. Then, the city could arrest and jail homeless people who slept outside at night, instead of using the shelter. The fly in that ointment was the shelter the City built, KOTS, was not large enough to sleep all of the area’s homeless, yet the City continued to use its police to prevent homeless people from sleeping outside at night. I heard the other day that now the City also uses its police to prevent homeless people from sleeping during the day in public parks. The City has been told by Barton Smith, who represents the condo association at the golf course, that he will file suit to block the City from building a bigger KOTS at the Easter Seals property. Bart’s family owns the golf course and the nearby sewerage treatment plant, treated water from which is used to irrigate the golf course. I don’t know how that lawsuit might turn out, either, but I don’t imagine Bart was bluffing when he told the City that he would file suit, if it tries to build a bigger KOTS at the Easter Seals property, which is adjacent to the golf course.
Letters to the editor in The Key West Citizen today.
Abortion diminishes the dignity of women
P.D. Cummings’ letter to the editor asking us to vote no to Amendment 6 gives us a clear choice between abortion and life. Our Constitution does not speak to women’s rights but is clear that all of us have the right to life, liberty, etc. That life, all of our lives begin at conception. Oh? You remember, James, being aware when you were one cell dividing into two cells? In fact, Jim, your soul was still inchoate, waiting to descend into form when your mother delivered you. Before that, what she had inside of her was similar to an automobile constructed of amoeba, in which there was no driver or passengers. “Women’s rights” in this letter is pseudonym for abortion. Unborn children’s right to life is covered by our Constitution. Show me, James, where in the Constitution is anything about an unborn child’s right to life, or right to anything. Amendment 6 supports that right by eliminating public funding except in the case of rape, incest or saving the life of the mother. So to support life we should vote yes on Amendment 6 and those candidates that support life. To support life by your definition, James, abortion for any reason is illegal. Women have been gifted with that magical ability to give life. It is so awesome. The children that are created by women are unique and totally innocent, despite how they were conceived. To kill them at any stage diminishes the dignity of women. There are other solutions. If you were a woman, James, you would have more standing to argue your case. Not being a woman, you have no standing.
James J. Maun
Life argument based on scientific criteria
Stephen Dawkins’ letter regarding religious beliefs and law makes several assumptions, some are questionable and some are incorrect. First he assumes that if religious beliefs and the law are the same, the reason we have such laws is because of those religious beliefs and that law is therefore invalid. Thus laws forbidding stealing, murder and perjury would be invalid because they are forbidden by the Judeo-Christian 10 commandments. He also assumes that all disagreements about when life begins are religious. Doctors and scientists have disagreements on when life begins based on scientific criteria. Amen. And since there is no scientific agreement as to when life begins, any arguments by religious people about when life begins are religious arguments. Another false assumption is that the U.S. Constitution requires “separation of church and state.” The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and that is the only place that religion is mentioned in the constitution. Each person’s religious beliefs (or lack of) with other factors may influence what laws he supports and how he votes. This is a private decision and his reasons are his, to share or not as he desires. Correct, but the Constitution does not give you, Roger, or anyone, the right to impose your religious beliefs onto anyone else. Like James Maun above, you have no standing, Roger, to tell women how to deal with what you cannot comprehend because you are not a woman.
Big Torch Key
America can’t afford to return to the ’50s
[Last week's] column by Rudy Molinet was excellent, and I hope he reached many undecided voters or voters who had intended to vote for Mitt Romney. Every word he said is the truth. I heard a commentator saying this week that despite his stance on women’s rights, women are going to vote for him anyway because he has run a business and they believe he will bring the economy back. The economy is already coming back, and has been coming back steadily for the past few years since President Obama took office. Are we there, yet? Of course, not, but, if Mitt Romney does as he has promised and gets Rowe v. Wade overturned, Planned Parenthood dismantled, and the Affordable Healthcare Law overturned, I wonder how those women are going to feel then, to realize they’ve set women’s rights back decades, and that they’ve ruined the chance of millions who finally might have had health insurance to get health care. What good is a strong economy when half the country has no rights? Do they really want to go back to the 1950s? I grew up during the ’50s, and have some wonderful memories of being a teenager then, but I also remember the young women who bled to death after back alley abortionists got through with them. And, women who had no way to get preventive screening to see whether they had cancer of the breast or cervix, dying as a result of having it go undiagnosed for too long. I remember the blatant discrimination not only toward blacks, but toward gays and other minority groups. I remember when I had a difficult time feeding my children as a single mother, because I made so much less than male nurses made. I know America is not perfect, but we’ve come a very long way, and much of that is because of President Obama’s standing up for all of us since he took office in January 2009. We can’t afford to go backwards now.
West Palm Beach
Hmmm, if President Obama had stood up for all of us, he would have ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately upon being sworn in. If he had done that, Hurricane Sandy would have not clobbered New York City and surrounding “blue” areas. I don’t suppose I should ask how America will ever balance its two-wars budget? I don’t suppose I should even think about America paying back its debt? I don’t think I should even dream about China forclosing its American debt and taking over the securing assets. Osama bin Laden beat America worse than Ho Chi Mihn beat America, by goading America into invading Iraq, and then Afghanistan, while the Republicans cut taxes on themselves and put America so far in debt that it’s a joke to even talk about America being fiscally responsible. Under President Obama, the national debt got a lot worse. America’s only way out of its credit card Armageddon is to officially go bankrupt and to become a pay as it goes government, like what happened to the bankrupt companies Mitt Romney took over. If the American government doesn’t have the money for something, it doesn’t happen, right Mitt? The same way Peggy Butler lives. The same way I live. Not the same way our school district lives, though. Maybe its role model is Uncle Sam?
Sloan Bashinsky, B.A. Economics, Vanderbilt University; J.D., LLM in taxation, University of Alabama School of Law; B.S., in life. B.S. does not stand for Bachelor of Science.